Welcome to the New Age


Author: Emma Locknane – Second Place 2018

It’d started as a normal day. Kenta left for school, Chrono lying on the floor in hopeless despair. He’d been in the middle of an existential crisis for days, but Kenta figured it’d blow over like usual. He’d left for school without giving it much thought.

Only when Kenta got home did the trouble start.

He’d walked in to find Lily doing homework. She looked up excitedly when Kenta walked in, but when she saw who it was, she glared.

“Oh, it’s just you,” she grumbled. Lily was a brat to Kenta.

“Who’d you think it was?” Kenta asked, unpacking his books. “The Tooth Fairy?”

“I thought you were Chrono,” Lily grumbled. This stopped Kenta.

“He ain’t here?”

“He was gone before I got back.”

“That’s odd….”

“Didn’t he have an appointment?”

“Not until eight.” Kenta eyed the clock; it was three-thirty….

“Maybe he went grocery shopping.” Lily rolled her eyes.

“Majora does groceries on Tuesdays,” Kenta corrected her condescendingly. “Know where he went?”

“If I knew, I wouldn’t have cared when you came!” Lily snipped. Kenta grumbled under his breath. He disliked Lily sometimes.

“Great…” Kenta muttered as a thought formed. “Hey, Contigo!”

“Yes, Master Kenta?” a small voice sounded. A yellow, black-striped cat came trotting down the hall.

“Where’s Chrono?” Kenta wondered. Contigo was always on top of things in this house, so Kenta figured he’d be the best source.

“No idea. The master left long ago and made no mention of his destination,” Contigo answered. “He seemed rather off today, though….”

“How so?”

“He stared at the ceiling for five hours straight before he departed; wouldn’t say a word when I called to him!”

“K….” Kenta realized something was wrong.

“But then around one or so, he just stood up and left. He had a weird look on his face, almost like he was deep in thought,” Contigo explained, bordering on a rant. Kenta and Lily both were staring at the cat with bug eyes.

“Like….thinking thinking?” Lily asked.

“I’m not a mind reader…but if I had to guess..?” Contigo surmised. Lily and Kenta exchanged a worried glance.

“We’ve gotta find him!” they exclaimed, shoving their way out the door and slamming it behind them. Contigo stared, befuddled.

“Now they’re rushing off in a hurry.” He shrugged. “Oh, well. Time for a nap!”

* * *

“You know, I just thought!” Lily shouted over the wind. She rode behind Kenta on his hovercycle, flying high above the city with other vehicles and shops below. “A hovercycle is great for speed, but not for spotting Chrono amongst an entire city!”

“Can it, would you?” Kenta hissed. “We’re not trying to cover the entire city!”

“Then what are we doing?”

“I know Chrono well; he’s got several places he goes to when he wants to hide!”

“Guess what? I know him too! What if I have a suggestion?”

“Oh, what’s that? I can’t hear you over the wind!” Kenta shouted, feigning deafness.

“Of course you can! I was just—AAH!” Lily shrieked when Kenta accelerated suddenly, ascending to the faster lanes. Lily would’ve fallen if she weren’t holding onto Kenta so tightly.

After several minutes of reckless driving, Kenta landed his hovercycle before a building. A neon-red sign illuminated the words, “The Ballista Bar.”

“The pub?” Lily raised an eyebrow. “Chrono doesn’t drink!”

“That’s not why he comes here,” Kenta retorted. “He hides in the crowds.”

“Fine!” Lily groaned, walking toward Kenta.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa! Where you going?” he asked, holding out a hand to block her.

“I’m coming with!”

“No, you’re not. Read the sign!” Kenta pointed to a sign on the wall.


Lily frowned. “So what am I expected to do?”

“Wait here,” Kenta told her, walking inside. Lily glared after him.

“Sure, I’ll just stay here! Not like I could be useful, or anything!” she huffed, but then spotted something across the street. “Hey…is that Fred?”

* * *

Kenta strode inside, met by cheers and jeers. He received some shifty stares, returning the gesture. Patrons quickly diverted their attention from him after noting he was a fellow tough character.

Maintaining such composure, Kenta sauntered up to the bar counter, taking a seat beside a hungover woman. The bartender turned round, immediately recognizing Kenta.

“Hey, kid!” the man hollered, his big feet thumping as he approached. “What can I get ya?”

“How about some info?” Kenta queried, leaning his elbows on the counter. The bartender blinked in surprise.

“I’ll see what I can do. What’s on yer mind?”

“Seen Chrono lately? Within the past few hours?”

“Chrono? Nah, haven’t seen him in ages!” the bartender answered. “Why?”

“He disappeared earlier,” Kenta replied, running his finger along the counter.

“I see. Might check Fight Club,” the bartender suggested. “Lots of people go there to blow off steam.”

“That’s next,” Kenta stood up. “Thanks, anyway.”

“No problem! Hope you find your dad!” the bartender called after him. Kenta shot him a look.

“Chrono’s not my dad.”

“Might as well be. Good luck!”

Kenta sighed, walking out the door. He trotted over to his hovercycle, halting when he saw Lily. She was leaning back against the handlebars, a paper tray in her hands.

“What are you eating?” Kenta asked.

“Sweet potato fries. I got them over there!” Lily pointed across the street where a scruffy old man was manning a stand. “It’s Ol’ Fred!”

“Fred?” Kenta repeated, confused.

“You don’t know Fred?”


“How do you not know Fred?”

“I think the better question is how you know him!” Kenta shot Lily a harsh stare.

“When Chrono used to drop me off at morning class, we’d stop by Fred’s stand in the morning!” Lily explained irritably. “He’s got the best sweet potato fries!”

“So you complain about being useless, yet you go buy fries?” Kenta queried.

“Please, I’m not stupid! I asked if he’d seen Chrono,” Lily answered. “Nothin’. How’d your expedition go?”

“Not at the bar,” Kenta sighed. Lily caught the look in his eyes.

“Fight Club’s next?”


* * *

Kenta and Lily pulled into the junkyard, a sign illuminating the words “FIGHT CLUB.” The dim lighting of old vehicles gave off an intimidating atmosphere, but Kenta and Lily had been here enough not to worry.

Once more, Kenta put on his thug stance. The two passed through the crowd watching the current fight. Though the duel was very interesting, the two were low-ranking members on the scoreboard, so Kenta didn’t devote attention. He walked up to the burly guard standing near the entrance behind the bleachers.

“Yo, Rufus!” Kenta said. The lizard-faced guard grumbled as he turned his head. A forked tongue flicked through his lips. “Chembra around?”

“What’s it to you, gangrene?” Rufus growled throatily, glancing at Kenta’s green hair.

“Gotta speak with him.”

“What for?”



“Can I just see him?” Kenta snapped.

Rufus folded his scaly limbs.

“Not just anybody can talk to the champ!” he grumbled.

“I know. I won’t be long.” Kenta stared back at the dragon of a man. Rufus narrowed his beady eyes, lips curling into a snarl.

“Only because you’re Chrono’s kid!” he chuffed. “He’s in the back preppin’ for a match. With the rate it’s been goin’, though, he could take probably take a nap!”

“Thanks,” Kenta quipped, continuing on. “You’ve always been my favorite!”

“Save it,” Rufus snarled back. “Kids….”

Kenta and Lily reached the infirmary, where fighters also prepared for matches. Despite the large number of combatants, it didn’t take long to find the Fight Club champion. His black scales, white hair, and vibrant frills stood out.

“Hey, Chembra!” Kenta called. The draker turned his head, eyes lighting up when he saw Kenta.

“Yo! Looky-who?” Chembra chirruped, tufted tail curling with excitement. “How’re you?”

“Got somethin’ to ask ya.” Kenta cut straight to the chase.

“Oh, you do?” Chembra rumbled, the frills on his neck shuffling inquisitively.

“I’m looking for Chrono. Ya seen him?” Kenta queried.

“Not around here.”

“Where did you see him?” Lily demanded. When Chembra went to respond, she continued, “I know that devious look; all drakers have it when they’re hiding something! You know more!”

Chembra blinked twice, impressed.

“All right, I’ll talk,” Chembra sighed. “I was on my way here earlier, and I saw him ride by on that motorcycle of his. Thing’s practically an antique!”

“Where’d you see him?” Lily frowned.

“I’d just left Anaro’s Mexican; saw him heading northeast!”

“Anything else?”

“Nope. That’s it. He went right on by, didn’t even wave!” Chembra rolled his eyes. “So rude. I’d waved to him, and everything!”

“Thanks,” Kenta stated.

“No problem!” Chembra answered. “That fight done yet? Ricky’s up next; I want to know if it’s his turn!”

“Nope; still at it!” Kenta informed him. “Catch ya later!”

“Sure thing!” Chembra smiled, waving. “Good luck out there. Don’t get run over! Roads are dangerous!”

* * *

Kenta and Lily spent the evening scouring DC. They checked everywhere he’d usually be—the library, Scientists’ Corner, even the Cat Park. Still, Chrono remained elusive. It had Kenta worried.

“I don’t get it!” Kenta stated. He and Lily were in the Cat Park, the hovercycle parked nearby. Lily was watching with an aloof expression. “We’ve looked everywhere! Where is he?”

“Dunno. DC’s huge!” Lily stated. “But if we haven’t found him yet, we’re probably not going to find him ourselves. I say we file a report!”

Kenta huffed.

“You’re kidding, right? If Majora finds out, she’ll kill us!”

“You got a better plan? We can’t scour the entire city alone!”

“Lily, if we file a report, Majora will know!” Kenta tried to reason with her. He didn’t want to face the wrath of Chrono’s mother. “And you know how she is! She’ll flip and ground us for the rest of our lives!”

“Whatever. I’m going!” Lily rose, turning and walking away. Kenta glared after her.

“Fine! Don’t expect me to give you a ride home!”

“Whatever, Seaweed-Head!”

Kenta rolled his eyes, leaning against his bike with a sigh. Truth be told, he didn’t have a plan for finding Chrono. If he wasn’t in any of his usual places, then Kenta didn’t know where he’d gone. Chrono wasn’t usually this hard to find; it was very uncharacteristic of him.

Suddenly, realization slapped Kenta right across the face. How could he have been so dumb? To think he’d wasted all this time.

“Why didn’t I just call him?” Kenta chastised himself. “How did I not think of it earlier?”

Rolling his eyes, Kenta scrolled through his contacts until he found Chrono’s name. He got great satisfaction knowing Lily probably hadn’t thought of this.

There was the automated sound of a ringing phone—Chrono used an old-fashioned smartphone despite the existence of newer technology—but finally, someone picked up.

“H-hello?” an old, withered voice picked up. Taken aback, the higher pitch immediately told Kenta that it wasn’t Chrono.

“Sorry! Wrong number!” Kenta answered, frantically hanging up. He then paused when he realized he couldn’t possibly be mistaken; that was the contact he’d put in for Chrono’s phone! He’d used it just the other day and it’d worked, so it couldn’t be a mistake! If that was true, why did an old lady answer Chrono’s phone? Kenta called again.

“Hello? Is anyone there?” the elderly voice rasped again.

“Hi! Uhh…I’m looking to speak to Chrono Salvage?” Kenta asked, still trying to wrap his head around what was going on.

“Chrono…I’m afraid I’m not sure who that is!” the old woman answered. “Could you describe them?”

“Pale lavender hair, magenta eyes, lots of scars on his face,” Kenta explained.


“He’s got a metal arm,” Kenta added.

“Oh! Why, yes! I’ve seen him! Such a nice young man!” The old woman finally gave some well-needed answers. “In fact, he’s here now!”

“Where?” Kenta demanded, finally getting a lead.

“Room 206, floor three!”

“What building?”

“The Blue Evans Retirement Home.”

What the heck is he doing there, retiring? Kenta asked himself. He’s only forty!

“And…where is that?” Kenta queried.

“Quadrant Three, two roads inland from Engelman Industries, on the left!” the lady answered. “It’s a brick building, with a big pink sign on the roof; can’t miss it!”

“All right, thanks,” Kenta responded.

“No problem! Are you a friend?” the woman queried.

“You could say that—”

“Wonderful! Well, I’ll just tell him you’re coming,” the woman chimed merrily.

“No, no! Wait a minute; don’t tell him I—!” Kenta blurted, but it was too late. The woman had already hung up the phone. “Agh, great….”

Kenta jumped onto his hovercycle and set off as fast as possible. He had to get to the retirement home before Chrono could escape; Kenta would lose the trail if he got too far ahead. The jitakarai was a fickle creature in such circumstances; one minute he’d decide he wanted to be found, but the second he realized he was being tracked he’d disappear. Usually he could be found with relative ease, but Kenta could sense today was different….

* * *

Kenta careened into the parking lot, throwing his bike into park and charging inside. He barged through the doors, shoving up to the receptionist.

“I need to find Room 206!” he shouted. The receptionist stared up at him with bored eyes, slowly putting on glasses.

“What floor?” she asked blandly, raising an eyebrow.


“Go up the elevator; tenth room on the right, down the hall.”

“Thanks!” Kenta took off, jumping in the elevator and smashing the button. As the elevator shifted, Kenta hoped Chrono hadn’t gotten away yet….

The elevator doors opened, and Kenta sprinted down the hall until he came to 206. Skidding to a halt, he battered on the door.

“Who is it?” a shriveled voice asked.

“The person who called looking for Chrono Salvage,” Kenta answered, hoping the old lady didn’t have dementia or anything….

To his relief, someone actually answered. A small, frail old lady with a walker stood in the doorway, looking Kenta up and down. She smiled a very slow, welcoming grin.

“Ah! So you found us, then!” she said. “Come in!”

The old woman hobbled back into the room, and Kenta followed. He entered a small, dimly lit room with beige walls and maroon carpeting. There were several chairs arranged in a circle, all but two filled with elderly. Chrono was nowhere to be seen.

“Hey, where’d he go?” Kenta asked, beginning to feel irritated. The old people didn’t answer, just kept staring at Kenta.

“A youngster?” an old docani asked, barely looking up from her knitting. Her big, bushy tail twitched in agitation while one of her long, almost elephant-like ears cocked with query. “We never get those ’round here!”

“You look a lot like my late husband,” another woman stated, a faraway look in her eyes. “All tough and the like! He was a drug lord…and a hitman…. Ah, but I loved him!”

“Do you have my Metamucil?” an elderly vultasian woman asked, a bat-like ear raised in query.

Kenta cringed.

“Girls, girls!” the woman with the walker berated, gesturing with her hands. “Behave yourselves! We’re trying to help this young man find his friend, not comment on the state of DC’s youth!”

Thank you! Kenta thought.

“Come, young man! Take a seat,” the woman insisted, gesturing to the last chair she pushed into the center of the circle. Kenta acquiesced as a form of respecting his elders.

“So, Chrono was here, right?” he asked.

“Mm-hm! Just as you described him!” the woman said.

“So pleasant!” the cloudy-eyed woman cooed.

“Okay. But where is he now?” Kenta persisted.

“Up and left us!” the docani snapped. “Said he had somethin’ to attend to!”

“Of course he did…” Kenta groused. “Know where he went?”

“No!” the docani hissed, narrowing her eyes. “He didn’t tell us! Not that it’s our business.”

“K….” Kenta relented, knowing he had a new trail, now. “Thanks anyway.”

“Siddown, boy! We’re not done with ya!” she barked, her tone so vicious that Kenta didn’t argue for a second. The docani looked to the woman with the walker expectantly.

“Your friend was quite downcast when he came,” the woman spoke with concern.

“What do you mean?” Kenta queried, listening.

“Oh, the poor thing! He looked like something the cat dragged in!” the vultasian exclaimed.

“Was he hurt?”

“No, not physically!” the vultasian answered. “He looked a little dead inside, perhaps!”

“Like a shell with no hermit crab,” the cloudy-eyed woman added eerily.

“So…he’s depressed?” Kenta guessed.

“Isn’t that what ‘downcast’ means?” the docani snarked with a tone like sandpaper. Kenta would never forget her scowl….

“He was, actually,” the walker lady replied. “See, when we asked him why he was here, he said he’d come seeking…advice!”

“I told him to invest in some orthopedic shoes!” the vultasian piped up.

“Advice? That’s odd…” Kenta murmured, realizing the severity of the problem….

“He said he was trying to reconnect with someone, but wasn’t sure how. Apparently everything he’d tried hadn’t worked, so he’d come to see if we had any input,” the walker lady elucidated. “So we told him!”

“Told him what?” Kenta asked, confused where this was going.

“Our stories.” The docani didn’t look up from her knitting.

“I told him about my niece!” the vultasian said. A glimmer of glee passed over her eyes. “Would you like to hear it?”

“Maybe another time. Why did you tell him stories?” Kenta tried to reason.

“What else are we gonna do? Dance a jig?” The docani raised a sarcastic eyebrow. “Ha! We’re way beyond that, son! Our lips are the only things that still work!”

“But who does he have this issue with?” Kenta queried, beginning to lose patience.

“Didn’t say. And we didn’t ask!” the docani chuffed. “It wasn’t something he wanted to disclose, and we respected that!”

“We were just glad for a visitor!” the walker lady said. “We don’t get many guests; we were happy to have someone listen to us for a while!”

“He was actually interested when I told him how I finally got my daughter to visit me!” the cloudy-eyed woman added. “Hanging on every word, absorbing every detail like a little sponge!”

“Mm-hm! Francine seemed to be the one he focused on the most!” the walker lady pointed out. “I mean, he listened to all of us without fail, but that story seemed to really snag his attention!”

“Until you wrecked it!” the docani snapped.

“Go on,” Kenta prompted softly.

“You called him, and he went on the fritz!” The docani waved her pair of hands that wasn’t busy knitting. “He couldn’t even bear to answer the darn thing, he was so distraught! Ruthie had to answer, instead!”

“Oh, I felt so bad!” the walker lady, Ruthie, sighed. “He looked terrified!”

“Why would he be scared to answer his own phone?” Kenta wondered aloud, mostly to himself.

“Dunno; you tell us!” The docani gave Kenta a warning glare. “You givin’ him a reason?”

“I don’t know. He’s never done this before. Did he ask you anything specific?” Kenta asked, looking to Ruthie.

“No, but he did say something rather odd,” Ruthie answered. “Something about not wanting to be seen in such a state.”

“He was that upset? You must have some idea why!” Kenta exclaimed.

“Like we said, he looked pretty messed up walkin’ in!” the docani stated. “Almost as if he were in a state of despair. When we started talkin’ to him, he lit up like we were saints, or somethin’!”

“I have to find him. Who knows what sort of trouble he’s gotten himself into…?” Kenta sighed, rising from the chair. “Thank you for your time. Uh…do you know anyone who might know where he went?”

“Belle knows,” a small voice peeped from the window. A small old lady in a wheelchair sat hunched by the window, her long white hair hanging in ghostly wisps over her face.

“Where is she, then?” Kenta queried.

“Belle is right here,” the old woman stated.

“She speaks in the third person!” Ruthie whispered. “Just go with it!”

“Ah…” Kenta understood. “And…what did Belle see?”

“She saw through the window; after Ruthie told him you were coming, he thanked us for our time and left in a hurry.” Belle continued staring. “Belle saw him ride off on a motorcycle.”

“I see. You sure he headed in that direction?” Kenta asked for clarification.

“Yes; off toward the northeast. Belle thinks it’s possible you may find him near the docks.” Belle turned her head slowly, giving Kenta a queer stare through her milky eyes.

“Thank you. If there’s nothing else you have to tell me, I have to go,” Kenta told the ladies.

With that, Kenta slowly made his way back to the parking lot. He mounted his hovercycle, started the engine, and rocketed full speed for the docks.

* * *

Kenta raced through the streets of DC, his mind fixated on finding Chrono. Kenta’s thoughts were aimed at the docks, and where Chrono might be hiding. He was tough to find when he didn’t want to be found, but he had some habits that never failed. Kenta knew he was particularly drawn to old structures. In quadrant two, most of the old docks were located on the northwest region. If Kenta had to guess, he figured that’s where Chrono would be.

As Kenta raced along, he came upon a familiar sight. Grinding to a halt, he noticed a small shack placed a few meters from an abandoned ore dock. Reading the sign, Kenta vaguely recognized it.

The Koffee Kat

Kenta recalled this building. When Kenta was younger, likely in middle-school, Chrono would sometimes return with scones from here. The logo of the brown cat in a coffee cup had always been a prominent symbol in his mind; this place had the best scones….

Running over to the ore dock, Kenta stopped as he came across a motorcycle parked nearby.

It was definitely Chrono’s, possessing wheels worn from years of use. Frowning, Kenta proceeded onto the dock, running down the length until he spotted a figure huddled in a thick black coat near the end.

It was Chrono.

Kenta cautiously stepped forward. He didn’t know if Chrono noticed him or not, and he didn’t want to startle him lest he disappear again. Kenta continued until he was right behind the jitakarai.


It took a moment before Chrono slowly turned his head. His wispy lavender hair hung over his eyes, so there was no telling what he was thinking.

“You know I’ve been looking for you all day?” Kenta began, sitting down.

“Figured,” Chrono answered emotionlessly.

“Why’d you run off? You know you had an appointment?” Kenta asked, clueless as to what instigated the jitakarai to disappear.

“I already canceled it.”

“Why?” Kenta wondered.

Chrono shrugged. “Mm.”

“Hey, you set me on this adventure knowing I’d have to track you down, and that’s all you can say?”

“I guess.”

“Don’t give me that! I’m already getting in trouble for leaving Lily by herself and talking to a bunch of strange old ladies, and you won’t give me a reason? Are you trying to get me grounded? ’Cuz you sure done me in this time!” Kenta shouted, unable to be calm any longer.

“No, the retirement home thing is on me,” Chrono sighed. “And that wasn’t my intention. That was collateral that only crossed my mind afterwards.”

“Why did you go there in the first place?” Kenta demanded to know.


“Yeah. I got that. Tell me why.”

Chrono was silent, sighing through his nose. He continued staring somberly into the distance, hair blowing in his face. Finally, however, the slightest glimmer of emotion swirled across his irises.

“I remember the first time I showed you the lab,” Chrono began. Kenta wasn’t sure where he was going, but he let Chrono speak. “You were…thirteen, maybe twelve and a half. You’d been begging to see it for weeks, and finally I gave in.”

Kenta remained silent, remembering how many times he tried to break into that lab. Every time he’d gotten caught by some sort of security measure, however.

“You were so excited,” Chrono continued. “I remember…your face just lit up when you saw it.”

Kenta listened quietly, recalling such.

“It was like a kid in a candy store; you were so fascinated by everything,” Chrono went on, eyes still focused off into the distance. “Jerry, especially. You couldn’t get enough of him.”

Kenta’s memory of that day passed before his eyes. He’d always wondered what that big cage out back housed, and he finally got to see it. Initially, he was frightened of the mutant flytrap, as it was taller than the house. However, after Chrono assured him it was friendly, he’d tentatively wandered forth to pet it. Nowadays, Kenta and the giant plant were good buddies.

“I also…remember when you first got your hovercycle.” A flicker of nostalgia twirled across Chrono’s expression.

“Yeah. It was black with green highlights. We still have it stored away in the garage,” Kenta replied, thinking back to the first time he had crashed it. He couldn’t count the times Chrono had had to fix it.

“I know; I saw it earlier,” Chrono responded.

“You had it out recently?” Kenta wondered.


“Why? Was it rusty?” Kenta queried.

“No. Those things never rust.”

“Right. Why’d you have it out?”

“Bit of maintenance.”

“Think she’ll run after crashing in the lake?”

“Of course she’ll run. A few spare parts ought to do nicely.”

“You know…I was thinking of…letting Lily have it. When she’s ready, that is. Well, only if she doesn’t get me grounded!”

“I had a similar thought.”

“Little brat. She’d probably be a pro her first time! She’d just speed off as if she owned the road!” Kenta shook his head.

“Be nice; a hovercycle’s a far cry from that moped of hers!” Chrono chastised him. “And she’s not a brat!”

“Yes she is! She acts like an angel toward you, but she’s a little monster to me! She always has some sassy remark!” Kenta snapped.

Chrono sighed. “Well…yes! She usually does, and she needs to work on that!” he stated. “But she’s still your sister! Adopted, sure, but family nonetheless! So I don’t want to hear you calling her a monster! You’re lucky to have her.”

Kenta stopped. He knew Chrono wasn’t so fortunate. He’d lost both his sisters, and Kenta knew the jitakarai still blamed himself for them.

“I know, but she’s still mean…!” he pointed out.

“I’ll get on her case later. But just because she’s mean to you doesn’t give you license to mistreat her!” Chrono chuffed. “Be a good brother!”

“Hey, she left me! I didn’t twist her arm,” Kenta retorted.

“I’m not saying you did.”

Kenta gave him a certain face, frustrated that he couldn’t dispute that.

There was another long silence; the stars barely visible in the green-blue sky. Seagulls squawked down by the docks against the ambiance of Navy ships scrolling through the harbor. Music was faintly heard from the Koffee Kat’s interior. Once again, Chrono fell quiet.

Kenta sighed.

“With Alex and Jared in college, they ain’t got time for me, you know? I miss ’em. Wish they’d at least stop by now and then. Alex’s all about the island these days, and Jared has all this homework….”

“That happens with age and experience; such loneliness.”

“You saying you’re lonely?” Kenta asked, surprised. “I mean, with five people in the house, I’d think you’d be sick of people.”

“You’d think.”

“How are you lonely, Chrono?” Kenta wondered, shocked. Chrono paused, a forlorn look on his face.

“I’m still important to you, right?” he queried sadly.

Kenta nearly choked on his scone, whipping his head toward Chrono with wide, bewildered eyes.

“Of course! You raised me, took me in when no one else wanted a thieving child of a drug abuser, and turned my life around! I…maybe haven’t done much to repay you…but Chrono…surely you realize….”

Chrono chuffed in a manner similar to that of a housecat.

“I suppose it’s silly of me. Gettin’ senile early, I guess!” he interjected, trying to brush off his words.

“No, I’m serious. You are important to me, Chrono. I just haven’t—I haven’t had the time, no—that’s not….”

“I get it. Homework. High school. Tough years, I can attest.”

“It doesn’t excuse how I never showed you appreciation! I know I don’t always take your plights as seriously as I should…but I still care! Everyone’s busy; everyone has homework, but it doesn’t mean they can ignore everyone! I just wish….”

Chrono’s gaze remained clouded.

Kenta hated that face. He’d seen it too often to ignore it now.

Kenta grabbed Chrono and yanked him close. This startled the jitakarai, who moved to shove Kenta away, but never completed the action.

Kenta hugged him tighter, ensuring the jitakarai wouldn’t escape him ever again.

“Just because you’re not my actual dad doesn’t mean I don’t consider you one,” Kenta whispered, voice trembling. This finally broke Chrono, who was reduced to a sobbing, shaking mess in Kenta’s arms. He buried his face into Kenta’s shoulder, emotion finally overtaking him.

They stayed like that for a while, mentor and apprentice, father and son. Finally, at least for a moment as the stars twinkled down on them, everything seemed right with the world.

“Come on, then,” Kenta said, finally releasing Chrono and getting to his feet. “Let’s go home.”

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